Above & Below: Shooting from Different Angles for Better Photos
In regards to children’s photography, we are often advised to shoot at eye level. We are warned of all the dangers of shooting from above or below them. More specifically, shooting from above a child can make the subject appear weak, subservient and small. Alternatively, shooting from below can make an image seem angry, intimidating, or add weight to your subject. These are true, and should be kept in mind. However… I want to talk to you about shooting from different angles for better photos. High and low angle shots can add interest & personality! It can add to the overall feeling and emotion of the shot, creating a unique and moving photo story. Below are some examples of how a simple change of angle can change the mood of a photo.
Shooting from Above
Here is a portrait of my oldest, shot from above.
The goal for this photo was a vintage portrait. I think that the angle portrays her dainty and delicate stature, which is in keeping with the styling of the photo. It helps the viewer to know that the subject is a child, where shooting straight on left this questionable.
I chose to shoot wide open, blurring her dress and body nicely, while focusing on those lashes and fabulous freckles.
Next, we have my youngest blowing bubbles, shot from above. What I love most about this angle is the motion. You can almost feel those bubbles coming off the blower. It’s a stretch from the usual bubble shot, making this story more about the bubbles, and less about the subject.
This angle also gives us a good peek of her body, instead of just her head and shoulders. It highlights those great freckles and bonus…. the sky lights it all up nicely, for a fun and colorful photo!
You might say…”But we can’t see the child! What fun is that!” This is a valid point! This was a choice I made. To change the story. Shooting bubbles from the side and straight on would give you some bokeh, or maybe a hilarious facial gesture. But, if you have 10 albums full of from the side bubble shots, why not mix it up!
Shooting from Below
Here, my [disgruntled, and just a bit angry] child is doing her chores.
The low angle makes her appear strong, capable and qualified for the job! [whether she wants to be or not]. The low angle caused the light to flare just a little bit extra. Tilting that lens just a little, will often result in a big change in the light
In addition, had I shot this straight on, a few important things would be missing. The shadow on the floor, and the leading lines of the countertops. This would be a shame, because the shadows add a depth to the photo, and the leading lines draw your eye to our poor little Cinderella.
And one last photo:
Shot from lower than eye level, a sliver of light placed directly on the back half of her face.
The goal here, to show the moody nature of the angry tween, mad at her sister for not playing Barbies. Shooting from below made her appear larger, which was of huge importance to this photo, because shooting from above would have made her look smaller. For this specific photo, making her appear smaller would have made it feel sad, scared or possibly even pitiful and/or disturbing. The black and white conversion was a must, to properly convey “moody”.
Most of my shots DO follow the rules, but there are times when breaking them really pays off. It’s the oddballs, the unique and quirky shots, that are always my favorite. I would like to claim that all these angles were thought out beforehand and executed flawlessly, but I can’t tell a lie.
I did have a vision for these shots, before I even picked up the camera. Then, I played with angles to get the look I had imagined.
So how about we just experiment! Consider the goal for your photo and try it out. Consider shooting from different angles for better photos. Get up on a ladder, lay flat on your belly, hang upside down! Squat, lunge, bend & stretch…. if you wake up sore the next day, you’re doing it right. You could end up with a great photo…. and tighter, more toned buttocks!!!! That friends, is what we call a win-win.